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Report: More Than 30M Voters Purged From Rolls in Last 5 Years

States routinely clean up voter lists and cancel registrations either because those voters moved to another state, died or have gone for long periods of time without casting a ballot.

By Reid Wilson

State and local election offices have purged more than 30 million voters from registration rolls in the past five years, according to a new report — and the number may be far higher.

The report from the Brennan Center for Justice found election officials removed at least 17 million voters from the rolls between 2016 and 2018, on top of the 16 million registrations that were canceled between 2014 and 2016.

States routinely clean up voter lists and cancel registrations either because those voters moved to another state, died or have gone for long periods of time without casting a ballot.

But there are signs that some elections officials — particularly in areas with long histories of discrimination against minority voters — are acting more aggressively than others.

In a 2013 case known as Shelby County v. Holder, the Supreme Court struck down Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act, which required counties or states with histories of discrimination to submit any proposed changes to voting rules or procedures to the federal Justice Department or a federal court, a process known as "preclearance."

Prior to the Supreme Court’s decision, counties covered by Section 5 purged voters at about the same rate as counties that were not required to seek federal permission.

But once those areas were free to make changes without federal approval, the Brennan Center report found, counties once covered by Section 5 purged voters at a higher rate than counties that were not required to seek preclearance.

The counties with histories of discrimination now purge about 10 percent of voters on their roles, while counties that did not require preclearance canceled about 7 percent of registrations.

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